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UT, Toledo Symphony Orchestra team up for festival

The University of Toledo College of Visual and Performing Arts is partnering for a second season with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra to offer a festival that looks at dealing with the devil, temptation, redemption and heroes.

This arts and humanities collaboration is the second of its kind between the symphony and the college. In April, the Wartime Reflections Festival was presented.

Faculty and artists who work in theatre, dance, music, film and literature will provide context and background to enhance the audience’s appreciation for the musical pieces performed by the Toledo Symphony in its presentation of Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17, at 8 p.m. in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle Theatre.

Cornel Gabara, UT associate professor of theatre, will direct the production about a fiddle-playing soldier who makes a deal with the devil.

Tickets for the concert range from $24 to $54 with student prices of $10 in advance and $5 at the door. They can be purchased by calling 419.246.8000 or visiting ToledoSymphony.com.

Four free, public events remain that are part of the festival. Listed by date, they are:

• Tuesday, Oct. 30 — “Fighting and Embracing Evil Empires: Goethe’s Egmont and Faust” with Dr. Edmund B. Lingan, UT assistant professor of theatre, at 7 p.m. Libbey Hall. Just in time for Halloween, Lingan will invoke demonic realms and legends of a primordial occult religion in this exploration of two of Goethe’s plays, “Egmont” and “…Faust Part I.” The theatre historian and critic will show that these plays intuit the existence of a complex and disturbing realm of spirits, demons and deities.

• Friday, Nov. 2 — “Scoring Evil: Penderecki and Lynch’s ‘Inland Empire’” with Dr. Jeanne Kusina, UT coordinator of participatory learning and research, and a visiting faculty member in the UT departments of Philosophy and Women’s and Gender Studies, at 7 p.m. in the Center for the Visual Arts Haigh Auditorium on UT’s Toledo Museum of Art Campus. Director David Lynch has graciously granted permission for this rare public screening and discussion of “Inland Empire.” The story of an actress who enters into a terrifying psychological underworld as she increasingly identifies with the character she portrays, this challenging film can be described as a lurid, surreal journey down the rabbit hole. Film scholar Kusina will introduce the movie with a presentation on the film’s musical score, which features work by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, whose early avant-garde music has been featured in a number of films as a means to evoke unspeakable horror. Employing transcendental visual imagery and aural effects, “Inland Empire” provides a unique passageway into a chilling, at times haunting, consideration of the aesthetics of evil.

• Tuesday, Nov. 6 — “The Faustian Bargain and Other Devilish Deals” with Dr. Daniel Compora, UT associate professor of English, at 7 p.m. Libbey Hall, 7 p.m. This lecture will explore different folk variations of the Faustian bargain — the selling of one’s soul to the devil. The theme is prevalent in Western culture, and a number of people in literature and music allegedly have entered into such pacts. In particular, the legend of blues musician Robert Johnson and his deal at the crossroads will be examined.

• Tuesday, Nov. 13 — “Recruiting the Folk: Verbunkos, Gypsies and Temptation in Stravinsky’s ‘The Soldier’s Tale’” with Dr. Christopher Williams, UT visiting assistant professor of music at 7 p.m. in Libbey Hall. Although Stravinsky frequently boasted of the originality of his music, its utter independence from folk traditions or stylistic predecessors, the most radical features of his style — including its spasmodically shifting meters and acidic harmonic textures — nevertheless remain rooted in Eastern European and Russian folk music traditions. This is as true for his Russian folk tale with music, “The Soldier’s Tale,” as it is for the more obviously revolutionary “The Rite of Spring.” In this 1918 theater piece, the various functions and aspects of the soldier’s character are played out through musical folk references, especially to “recruiting songs” or “Verbunkos,” that were common to countryside military recruiting in Hungary and Russia in the 19th century, then popularized and further embroidered by gypsy musicians. Accordingly, “The Soldier’s Tale,” while spinning a classic yarn about the temptations of a simple everyman at the hands of the devil, also provides a prismatic reflection of Stravinsky’s most modernistic concerns as a composer and organic ties to popular folk tradition. This talk will place “The Soldier’s Tale” in a broader context of Stravinsky’s connections to folk music, rural recruitment and military culture on the Russian/Austrian border, and stories of diabolic temptation.